Monday, July 31, 2017

Anatomy of a Drawing #4

A couple of years ago in this space, I discussed…and illustrated…the process that went into a commissioned caricature drawing – in that case a request by a husband to surprise his wife on the occasion of both their anniversary and her birthday. More recently, a request came from the University of North Carolina’s medical department in Chapel Hill to honor a departing professor of medicine with a caricature of him, and various accoutrements depicting aspects of his life.

Welcome to the August edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist, from Caricatures by Joel.

Usually, when I’m assigned a similar project, I jump right into it, do all my sketching and final coloring without any client participation. But this time, I honored the request of the administrative assistant who had me share my drawing via e-mail at different steps along the way.

Here’s the original pencil rough of the pony-tailed young doctor, with a bulletin board filled with comments and observations made by the subject with apparent frequency. At least, enough of them to playfully tease the doctor.

Later, it was determined that he attended enough impressive institutions of higher learning that his diplomas deserved to be displayed. But not on a desk in front of him – that tended to look “clunky” and intrusive.

So we put them up on the wall, where these academic displays conventionally go. He was also supposed to have written some documentation, separate from the post-it notes on the cork board. So I gave him a clipboard on which to have placed his documents.  And then, with approval of the pencil sketch, I rendered the established outlines in ink for more “permanency.”

Then came the coloring – a combination of colored pencils and some colored ink via spot Prismacolor marker -- for the finished art.

Just what the doctor ordered.  Or, at least, his administrative assistant.

See you again the first Tuesday of next month, for another therapeutic dose of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.

Monday, July 3, 2017

May The Fourth Be With You

As we go about celebrating our nation’s 241st birthday, have you ever wondered why we do so with such pyrotechnic histrionics? The rockets’ red glare…the bombs bursting in air?

Well, we owe it all to two sources: the Chinese…and the second president of the United States.

Welcome to the July edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist, from Caricatures by Joel.

According to Time Magazine’s online history site, the earliest forms of such benign explosive devices can be traced to China, two millennia ago. Citizens of the Han Dynasty in 200 B.C., roasted bamboo stalks until they would turn black and sizzle, and the air inside the hollow stalks would explode.

 "Baozhu" is a Mandarin word for firecracker that translates directly to “exploding bamboo.”

Between 600 and 900 A.D., the idea was taken to the next level by filling bamboo shoots with gunpowder made from saltpeter (potassium nitrate, sulfur, and carbon acquired from charcoal), and throwing them into a fire pit. Steel dust or cast-iron shavings were added to make them sparkle. 

Later on, "Chinese fire" was made by crushing old iron pots and scraps into sand and adding the sand to gunpowder. These “firecrackers” were often used during New Year Festivals and weddings to scare off evil spirits.

As the ingredients for gunpowder spread to the West after the Silk Road opened up trade and the Mongols made their way to Europe in the 13th century, so did fireworks,
They became a part of official celebrations, from the annual "Girandola" fireworks display at the Castello Sant'Angelo in Rome to the 1533 coronation of Anne Boleyn as Queen of England.

So it was no surprise that, as soon as July Fourth began to be celebrated as America's Independence Day, fireworks were part of the plan.

And that’s where our fledgling nation’s second president comes in. 

At the conclusion of our"Revolutionary War,” John Adams expressed the hope that the anniversary of independence would be marked for years to come by "guns" and "bonfires" and "illuminations." 

In peace time, with increasing concern for public safety, those firearms were eventually phased out of the celebrations and replaced almost entirely by the fireworks, which were often given the official stamp of approval in the hope of drawing citizens to public celebrations instead of more dangerous private firework shows.

Today, though fireworks are a well-established July 4 tradition, they've still retained some link to their origins: in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, $296.2 million worth of fireworks were imported to the U.S. from China.

July 4th is a time for festivals. But, of course, festivals – any chance to assemble people for a fun time eating, drinking, socializing, parading and more – are common throughout the year.

Scattered throughout this edition are some folks I’ve drawn at various festivals…celebrating all kinds of cultural and historic touchstones.

For now, though, wishing a safe and Happy Fourth of July to y’all.

And see you the first Tuesday of next month for another star-spangled edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.